Atlanta II: Kyle Busch race report

Busch Labors to 13th Place Finish at Atlanta Kyle Busch fought through changing track conditions and an ill-handling racecar to finish 13th in Sunday night's Pep Boys Auto 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway. The driver...

Busch Labors to 13th Place Finish at Atlanta

Kyle Busch fought through changing track conditions and an ill-handling racecar to finish 13th in Sunday night's Pep Boys Auto 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway. The driver of the No. 18 Pedigree Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) led three times for 24 laps, but could not find the balance he needed to snatch a top-10 finish in the final 100 miles of the 500-mile race.

"It didn't turn out the way we wanted it to," said Busch's crew chief, Steve Addington. "The start of the race there, the car was pretty decent. The track temps came down, we made adjustments, and you saw it all across the board with the 48 (Jimmie Johnson) car. He was up there with us leading the race, and then they went backward. A lot of people were in the same boat. We fought the set-up all night long. We need to go back and reevaluate where we were. Everybody worked hard at Joe Gibbs Racing these past couple weeks -- with the weekend off and everything -- and we came here with what we thought was a good car. We just battled it."

The first official Sprint Cup race held at night at Atlanta began as the sun was setting just beyond turn one of the 1.54-mile oval. Early in the 325-lap race, several cars, including Busch's No. 18 Toyota, were handling well, but with track temperatures cooling as day turned to night, many of those same cars struggled to find the correct handling package necessary to get them to the front.

"It looked like it across the board from everybody," Addington said. "Dale (Earnhardt) Jr., comes from the back and goes up there and runs in the top-three and then he makes a pit stop and he gets passed by us. Everybody battled it, and the guys who hit it on it were the better cars. Everybody has the same car. Everybody came and raced Atlanta for the first time at night tonight from start to finish. The guys that did the best job won the race. The rest of us just struggled."

The 13th-place finish dropped Busch one spot to 14th in the championship standings with only one race remaining before the 12-driver Chase for the Championship field is set. Busch has 3,040 points and is 37 markers behind 12th-place Matt Kenseth entering the Sept. 12 Chevy Rock & Roll 400 at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway, where he won in May and has two runner-up finishes.

"Our goal is to go win (at Richmond)," Addington said. "We've got to go there and win and let the chips fall where they may. We've been working hard. We can't control what everybody else does. We can only control what we do. We need to go to Richmond and win the race."

Busch's JGR teammates, Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano, finished sixth and 22nd, respectively, at Atlanta.

With 25 of 36 races in the books, Hamlin leads the JGR trio in the championship point standings, as his sixth-place finish kept him fourth in points. He has 3,296 points and is 398 markers behind series leader Tony Stewart. Logano remained in 19th position with 2,584 points, 1,110 markers back of the lead.

The top-four drivers in points -- Stewart, Jeff Gordon, Johnson and Hamlin -- have all secured their respective spots in the Chase.

-credit: jgr

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Gordon , Matt Kenseth , Tony Stewart , Jimmie Johnson , Denny Hamlin , Joey Logano , Kyle Busch
Teams Joe Gibbs Racing